Trial and Error

Mission managers and technical staff praise NASA's new process of obtaining space shuttle health data and interpreting it to decision-makers, but with success comes some glitches.


  • Videoconferencing made more efficient use of technical experts' time, since they could participate in boardroom discussions without leaving their labs.
  • Managers encouraged open discussion from the "peanut gallery," but wall-mounted microphones didn't always work.
  • Audiovisual network sometimes hindered discussion because it was difficult for remote participants to break in.
  • The new meeting room was too noisy to conduct serious business.
  • The building housing Mission Control and the management team command center didn't support wireless communication, such as BlackBerrys.


  • Redundant reporting requirements hampered technical analyses.
  • Engineers were overburdened and worked long hours to bring data to the mission management team.

Lessons Learned

  • In briefing decision- makers, put your bottom line at the top. Recommend an action and summarize why. Give details if they ask. Sometimes less information is more.
    -Justin Kerr, debris transport analysis team leader
  • Establish straightforward reporting chains, communication paths and operating standards. Integrate information as you receive it, or tag up at least once a day.
    -Terri Murphy, imagery integration manager
  • Train like you intend to fly, and fly like you've trained. Faced with an unexpected situation, be ready to improvise, adapt and overcome.
    -John Muratore, shuttle engineering and integration manager

NEXT STORY: Oil Crises